Planning to upgrade your sound system? Do it right the first time.

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This is an excerpt from my new book, “Basic Training for the Church Audio Technician.”

One thing that often leads to a tech learning about their system quickly is the upgrade or construction process. When gear is replaced or a new system is installed, plenty of opportunities arise to learn quickly.

There are few ways to learn faster, than when you are trying to solve a problem. Something failed. Something changed and requires different equipment. New construction that requires a completely different system than the current one. These situations have forced me to read more manuals, product reviews and user forums than I would ever have volunteered for.

When you have to replace some or all of a system, you are about to get a quick education. It’s tougher in the church than it is in most other production environments. Budget restrictions force you to get the most bang for your buck almost every time. You need gear that will do the job effectively, last forever, be user friendly enough to be operated by volunteers and still fit the budget.

Once you know that an upgrade or installation is necessary, you get to make another decision. Install it yourself or hire someone.
If you do it yourself, make sure you are prepared to deal with the real logistics. Permits, inspections, electrical issues, safety and rigging issues, etc. You also might need to check in with your insurance folks. Just in case.

Even if you have the skills and knowledge to do it yourself, it’s worth getting some quotes. The installers and designers often have access to the latest and greatest that you may not know about. They may see things in your room that you don’t. They may have some very valuable advice to consider before writing that check.

If you find someone that offers great advice with a great attitude, hire them. Even if you are determined to install it yourself, it’s usually worth the expense to have a paid consultant to help with the design and assist with the installation.

I have a sore spot for churches that call techs out, ask thousands of questions, make ridiculous demands and still never pay the tech a dime. It’s wrong. Offer to work out a consulting agreement or hire them to do the whole job. You can’t so that for all of them, but if someone offers truly valuable advice and concern, take care of them.

Some won’t work like that, some will. It shows high integrity on your part and develops relationships that will be far more beneficial than the few dollars you spend. You might even get new members as a result.

If you want it installed by a professional, there’s a few things to consider.

In a hundred or so installations, only one pastor ever told me that he didn’t care what it cost. He just wanted that room to rock. Everyone else wanted me to work miracles. A Ferrari system on a Hyundai budget. Almost every time. It’s normal. Budgets have to be considered.

I strongly recommend most churches get multiple quotes before spending any money. I strongly recommend insisting on itemized quotes that list every single item you are purchasing. I also recommend visiting or at least calling the other churches these installers have worked with before.

I suggest that you prepare to ask the right questions when following up with these references. Like…
Did they honor their words and warranties?
Did the system they installed operate as promised?
Are you happy with the system?
Has the recommended gear been dependable?
Did the quote closely resemble the final invoice?
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Before running out and throwing a credit card at the sales staff, you need to ask some very important questions. You need to know what you need.

I have watched other designers and installers meet with church staff. There was one fairly consistent pattern that I noticed. When these guys came in asking questions and becoming familiar with the real needs of the church, the systems were usually wonderful. When they began telling the staff what they recommended, without asking questions, it was usually a disaster. Some installers already know what gear they plan to use without any regard to the needs of the church. I also suggest asking about training the entire tech crew and having the installer agree to run the first service with you.

Be skeptical of anyone who can tell you what gear you need without even knowing what kind of services you run. A church with one piano and one singer does not need the same rig as one with a full band. A two hundred seat room will not get the same system as a two thousand seat room. Those will be completely different systems.
Your new system should be tailored to your needs and budget.

You need to ask a lot of questions, before spending any money.

What do I love or hate about my current system?
What changes have I always wanted?
What is still worth keeping and what needs to go?
Do I need to replace it or just repair it?
How many channels am I currently using, how many do I really need?
Am I mixing the same band at every service?
Do we need a lot of flexibility for different groups?
How much of a budget do we have to work with?

Ask a lot of questions. Consider the answers carefully.

This might sound like an endless and complicated process, because it is. You are installing something that will affect every event in that room for years. No church does multiple installations in the same year. Once you put it in, you have to live with it.

You need it to be right the first time.

For more like this, get my book.
Click here. “Basic Training for the Church Audio Technician.”

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